Revising a Retention Schedule: Lessons Learned

This spring, Michigan State University completed the first phase of a multi-year records retention schedule project by revising the Human Resources Records Retention Schedule. The new schedule, which is the first major revision since 1990, aligns with regulations and best practices, is easier to read, and clearly identifies a number of active and legacy business systems as well as offices of record for each record series.

The first phase of the project took over two years to complete and involved significant support from a number of critical stakeholders, including Human Resources, Academic Human Resources, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, and General Counsel. Before jumping into the next phase of the project (Fiscal Records, here I come!), I wanted to reflect on some lessons learned regarding retention schedule revisions. Continue reading “Revising a Retention Schedule: Lessons Learned”

Resourceful Records Managers

Her is our second post in the Resourceful Records Managers series!

If you are interested in sharing your journey as a Records Manager please contact me at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.

Name: 

Fred Grevin

Institution and Job Title: 

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Vice-President, Records Management.

1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

I didn’t really choose Records and Information Management (RIM), I drifted into it. My academic degree is in archaeology and art history. I ended up working in micrographics, one of the leading edge technologies of the 1970s and 1980s. In the early 1990s, almost by accident, I took on a new technology challenge: organisation-wide deployment and support of personal computer systems (whilst still working in micrographics). That’s when the drift to RIM began, as large-scale programs in both micrographics and computer systems accumulated vast quantities of records. I had been a member of micrographics and photographic professional societies since the late 1970s, so now I joined ARMA and, eventually, the IEEE Computer Society, and thus began the trek to RIM.

2. What is your educational background?

I have a “licence ès lettres” (the equivalent of a BA) in Classical and Gallo-Roman Archaeology and Medieval Art History from the University of Dijon (France). I began coursework for an MLS at Columbia University in the early 1980s, but moved to West Germany before i completed the degree program.

3. What is your role at your institution?

I preside over the 4 full-time staff of the RM Department, which means I try to give them what they need and then get out of their way.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

“Satisfied customers” but, really, watching my staff thrill NYCEDC with their sleuthing work. They are truly amazing!

5. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?

Bringing together people who share common needs, in any profession.

6. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?

Primarily government and quasi-governmental, but also academic (teaching). RIM in government is often an exercise in frustration, but can also be tremendously effective when it works. Teaching is really a two-way street: the teacher learns as much as she/he teaches.

7. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

RIM is always about people and institutions. And no educational, working or life experience is EVER wasted; learn to use them all.

8. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)

ARMA, ART, IEEE Computer Society, IS&T, and SAA.

9. Thoughts on the future of records management?

Whether you call it RIM or Information Governance, it has a HUGE future (and a decently-paid one, at that). And it’s FUN!

10. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

Convincing Executive Management and IT that it’s about more than shuffling boxes of paper…..

11. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

I have an amazing (2E) son and a wonderful wife who is a freelance classical musician. All three of us love reading (HUGE book collection!). Watching interesting movies (recently: “The Queen of Katwe” and “Arrival”).

12. Do you have a quote you live by?

“Who will watch the guards?” (“quis custodiet ipsos custodes” Juvenal, Satires 6.347-48)

 

 

 

 

Making it Stick: Records Management Training Approaches

Several weeks ago the University Archivist and I conducted our bi-annual University Archives and Records Management training session, part of our Office of Human Resources Faculty and Staff Development Program. This got me thinking about the various strategies, methods, and approaches records managers employ when conducting training and outreach. I reached out to my peers via SAA’s records management and ARMA’s EDU listservs to get a sense of just that, and hopefully learn some new tips and tricks!

Training Image_Medium

The following is an overview of responses through which themes of visibility, focus, repetition, and trust were reoccurring. Thanks to Peggy Tran-Le, Cheryl Badel-Stevens, Peg Eusch, Chris Wydman, George Despres, and Hillary Gatlin for sharing their insights.

Visibility is vital. While records professionals may want to nerd out on recordkeeping topics, our users may not be as pro-active. So how to improve participation in records management training (RM)? Make it hard to miss. Incorporate records management training classes with new employee orientations, or pair it with your organization’s annually required training on information security or compliance. Reserve a slot in professional development services programs, or space at annual events or expos. In true lifecycle fashion, don’t forget to consider departing employee check-ins and exit interviews as points at which to engage users concerning record transitions and purging.

Focus your approach. Once you’ve captured some attention it’s time to drop some knowledge. Develop training consultations around specific recordkeeping topics such as developing effective filing systems, understanding retention schedules, shared drive management, or email retention. Create job aids like RM cheat sheets, quick reference guides, PowerPoint modules, or a Libguide (which tracks usage stats). Focus on particular needs that users can implement directly in their daily work.

Virtual potential. Many records managers may work in decentralized organizations, with distributed offices or campuses. Providing a virtual RM training presence boosts program visibility and increases engagement opportunities. Rather than reinventing the wheel, co-opt the service of an internal learning management system, like Blackboard, or a platform like YouTube to create training videos. These can range from voice-over PowerPoint presentations and subject specific Skype sessions, to casual discussions describing what RM is all about and off-the-cuff Google hangouts.

Repetition rules. Effective and consistent engagement comes from strong relationships, and that starts at the employee level. Target specific user groups like financial or human resource administrators, IT facilitators, or committees such as an Administrative Data Users Committee. Get more granular by conducting one-on-one consults where applicable. Develop repetitive outreach through quarterly newsletters or monthly emails. Consistency in RM training opportunities and resources leads to buy-in, which leads to trust, the keystone of any relationship.

Have fun with it! The following are some fun outreach ideas you can employ in your organization to build visibility and develop relationships:

  •          Post weekly RM tips on your organization’s media platform of choice.
  •          Monthly quizzes with prizes. Chocolate is effective!
  •          “RM Nuggets”, or short pointed articles, in other department’s newsletters.
  •          RM Literature distributed to departments annually to cover employee turnover, or included in new employee and departing employee packets.
  •          Web tutorials and quizzes reporting on completion by department to up gamesmanship.
  •          At trainings, encourage attendees to introduce themselves and what they hope  to learn. Attempt to address those concerns directly, or use them to craft a new training!
  •          Share RM in the news. Make it real and tangible.
  •          RM on Demand; Quick, topic-specific, ready-to-be shared modules.

Resourceful Records Managers #1: Laurence Brewer

Below is the inaugural interview in our new monthly RMS series Resourceful Records Managers.  If you are interested in sharing your journey as a Records Manager please contact me at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.

Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer of the United States1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management? Like many of us career records managers, it kind of chose me! My education and first jobs out of school were in the political science field; however, being a political science major in DC is not easy! I learned very quickly that I could not put food on the table at $5/hour with no benefits. So when I accepted that reality, the first company that hired me was a RIM organization.

2. What is your educational background? I have two degrees now in Political Science that I am not using at all. My parents are not very proud of that, especially since I have not been successful explaining to them what it is I actually do!

3. Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field? Actually the person I have to give credit to is Laura McHale, who when I worked for her at EPA, she encouraged me to learn more about RIM, and in particular advised me to study for and obtain my CRM designation.

4. How did you first become interested in Records Management? In my first jobs at EPA as a contractor, I developed an appreciation for the business-centric orientation of RM, especially when compared to archival practice. I enjoyed consulting, advising staff, and helping people with solutions to their RM problems.

5. What is your role at your institution? Currently, as Chief Records Officer, I lead an office of talented records managers and archivists who work with all federal agencies to advocate for and improve records management across the Government. Central to this charge is promoting electronic records management and modernizing recordkeeping practices in all agencies.

6. What do you enjoy most about your job? I enjoy the challenge of our core mission, but more than that, I enjoy the people who work with me to make these changes in the Government happen. We enjoy what we do and we have many smart, dedicated professionals who are responsible for our success.

7. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success? Ask me when I retire in 20 years! I feel like the best is still to come!

8. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ? My records management career started in the private sector as a federal contractor at EPA, then I took a position in RM at the state level in Virginia before joining NARA, where I have been in several positions since 1999.

9. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career? It’s a challenging and rewarding field, but more than anything success today requires learning about more than just RM. Knowledge of many other disciplines is important to be successful and add value to your organization. Truly, an information governance approach is critical today – one that focuses on coordination and partnerships with IT, Legal, HR, security, privacy and so on. The world has gotten more complex, and so has the profession.

10. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)? No, I do not….need to find the time, though I do attend many events sponsored by these organizations.

11. Thoughts on the future of records management? See #9

12. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field? Keeping abreast of technology and the implications for RM for many of the emerging issues. Spotting trends and interpreting the impact on RM for our organizations is going to continue to be a challenge.

13. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies? Outside of work, I enjoy live music so you may run into me one night at the 930 Club!

14. Do you have a quote you live by? None at all. However, I do have a tattoo that reminds me to stay balanced and calm in how I approach life.

Follow Up to Body-Worn Camera Records Hangout

On February 8, the Records Management Section was pleased to host a Hangout with Snowden Becker of the UCLA Department of Information Studies to discuss law enforcement body-worn camera footage and recordings.

If you missed the Hangout, you can watch the recorded version here. In addition, Snowden prepared some additional readings on her website.

We had record turnout for this Hangout, and time for some excellent questions from viewers about exemptions from public records laws, transfer of recordings from devices to repositories, the role of bystander video, how vendors handle records, and differences between public and law enforcement perspectives on video recordings.

This topic is being addressed elsewhere within SAA; recently the Issues and Advocacy Section addressed the topic on their blog, and the Committee on Public Policy is currently  circulating a draft to selected SAA sections in order to prepare an issue brief on body camera footage.

 

Follow up on Open Source Hangout

Beth Cron and I had a good conversation with Seth Shaw and Jeremy Gibson about open source records management tools.  If you didn’t have a chance to join us last week, you can still view it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GRQBUjtOT8.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Open source tools can be very valuable when they have a strong community around them.  This support leads to active development, which makes for a sustainable tool.  Being able to see other people’s work also provides more entry points to solving your own problem.
  • The potential downside to open source tools is that they tend to have less documentation, and there’s the potential for projects to be abandoned.
  • Seth mentioned an interview on The SIgnal about using open source tools in cultural heritage institutions.  You can find it at https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2013/01/when-is-open-source-software-the-right-choice-for-cultural-heritage-organizations-an-interview-with-peter-murray/.
  • Seth has a report pending publication as part of OCLC’s Demystifying Born Digital series (http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/born-digital-reports.html).
  • Jeremy pointed out that one of the benefits of open source tools is that you can more easily find tools that do one thing very well — and then stitch those solutions together to accomplish all of your RM needs.
  • In answer to a query about extracting metadata from media files, Jeremy pointed to MediaInfo and JHOVE.
  • One of the particular gaps identified in existing open source tools is one to handle redactions.
  • Before adopting a records management tool, it’s important to document your functional requirements and your organizational requirements (e.g., budget, IT support).  Only then can you make sure you’re choosing the right tool for your purposes.

Towards a Social Justice in ARM bibliography

First, let’s get this out of the way: I bet Matt Yglesias feels pretty stupid right now. Hahahaha ohhhh I’m going to be depressed. (Yes, I have a political bias. I’ll try to tamp it down for this post.)

Anyway! With White House pages on key issues disappearing (though not permanently! Thanks, NARA), information lockdowns being passed down to entire agencies (at least temporarily), and the possibility of science from the EPA being subject to political review before release, one’s mind tends to drift to questions of an archivist/records manager’s ethical responsibility in an institutional setting. (Didn’t you already write this post, Brad? Yes, I did, on multiple occasions, but this one’s different, I promise.) Yes, you have a responsibility towards your institution/government/whatever, but what is your responsibility towards society? Are archivists, particularly in records management roles, obliged to serve as whistleblowers? Do we save records of historical import on our own volition, despite orders (or, at best, strongly-worded suggestions) from the Powers That Be to show them the business end of a shredder? What do we make of reports that a top advisor to the president is actively avoiding creating a paper trail?

Well. I Have Opinions about all of these things. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you), an official group blog for a component group of a professional organization is not the place for them. But those sublimated opinions have to go somewhere… in this case, I thought, “why not take a look at what the professional literature has to say about these issues?” I put out a Twitter call for recommendations, did some poking around on some of my library’s databases, and the result is a brand new category on the RM bibliography, which I am tentatively calling Institutional Records and Human Rights. More on this after the jump. Continue reading “Towards a Social Justice in ARM bibliography”